Many people can be deeply affected by someone’s untimely death. Of course, immediate family members are usually the people who most feel the loss, but other relatives, close friends, and even co-workers or employees can suffer emotionally and financially because of the death. When the death is caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another person, legal action may be pursued in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. However, state law is very clear about just who is entitled to file such a claim and who is not.
What Missouri Says About Wrongful Death
The Missouri wrongful death statute outlines a very specific list of people who may file a suit. The statute also makes it clear that only one person may file a suit against one defendant for the death of a person. In the first group of eligible plaintiffs are the following:
- Spouse of the deceased
- Children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, of the deceased
- Grandchildren of the deceased, if the children of the deceased are also deceased
- Father or mother of the deceased, natural or adopted
If there is no one in any of these categories to file suit, then the following family members may take action:
- Brother or sister of the deceased
- Descendants of siblings of the deceased
- In both cases, the plaintiffs must prove that they will suffer financial or emotional loss because of the death
Finally, if there is no one in either of these groups to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem chosen from any applicants who feel they have a legitimate claim to proceeds from the suit. It is important to note that stepchildren are not permitted under Missouri law to file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of a stepparent.
Kansas Statute Is a Little More Restrictive
The Kansas statute governing wrongful death claims is short and sweet: “The action may be commenced by any one of the heirs at law of the deceased who has sustained a loss by a reason of the death.” An heir, according to Kansas law, is one who takes intestate succession, so if the deceased leaves behind a spouse or children, the parents and siblings of the deceased are not eligible to make a claim. Unlike in Missouri, where a biological connection is enough, in Kansas, the plaintiffs must also be financial dependents who will be harmed by the loss.
Don’t Try to Figure it Out on Your Own
If you have lost a loved one at the hands of someone else’s negligent or criminal actions and are not sure if you’re eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, contact our office to get your questions answered. Click on our live chat link now.